MTD In The Media – Quality World Magazine


Staff Member Question:

“I have recently taken up a new role within a large company. Having been at my previous organization for 20 years, it is all very new for me. My new boss is younger than me, and very domineering. I’m not sure why, but he seems to have begun a systematic campaign to erode my confidence, but in the subtlest of ways: my professional decisions are quietly over-ridden; he often excludes me from team communications; and occasionally makes jokes about my age in front of my colleagues.

I mentioned my concerns to him once, and he expressed surprise and regret. He didn’t discernibly change his behaviour, however, and now the situation is starting to sap my self-belief and assertiveness, and I am also beginning to doubt my own abilities. I wanted to resolve this problem without confrontation. Do you have any advice about how I could go about turning this situation around?”

We asked Sean McPheat, Managing Director Of MTD for some help.


Sean says:

The Problem

In my line of work I do hear of and come across many examples of the types of behaviours that you have mentioned.

The problem is that many people sit in quiet desperation rather than try to do anything to solve the situation that they have found themselves in.

It looks to me as though you are subject to a form of bullying.

The fact that you boss has made you doubt your own abilities and his behaviour as led to your confidence being drained away must be demoralising for you.

So how do you know if you are being bullied?

Bullying has been defined as:

‘any unsolicited or unwelcome act that humiliates, intimidates or undermines the individual concerned. Examples are, derogatory comments (both verbal and written including e mail), insensitive jokes or pranks, insulting or aggressive behaviour, ignoring or excluding an individual, setting unrealistic deadlines, public criticism, substituting responsible tasks with menial or trivial ones, withholding necessary information, constantly under-valuing effort’

Your Situation

Let’s have a quick look at what you put in your note. You say that your manager:

  • Is domineering
  • Your decisions are over-ridden
  • He excludes you from communications
  • Makes jokes about your age in front of others

And you are:

  • Doubting your own abilities
  • Your self-belief is being dented
  • Your assertiveness is being sapped

On the face of it, what you described can fit into the definition of bullying.

Don’t just think that bullying is when your manager shouts at you or threatens you in some way. There are many forms of bullying.

Bullying is taking place if:

  • You are being subject to excessive amounts of management and supervision.
  • You are being subject to excessive amounts of criticism from someone
  • Your decisions and authority are continually being overruled and undermined.
  • You are given excessive and unreasonable amounts of workload
  • You are the subject to ridicule and put downs whether that be on your own or in front of other people
  • You are being subject to aggressive behaviour
  • Your manager takes the credit for your work and never takes it on the chin if things go wrong – of course, it’s your fault.
  • Your manager sets you unrealistic deadlines, objectives or goals and then gives you a warning for not meeting them.

There are other examples of bullying but the list above just gives you a flavour of the different types of bullying that there are.

So What Should You Do About It?

Well, in the first instance, you mentioned to your manager that you were not happy with his behaviour and that is EXACTLY the right thing to do.

He might not have been unaware as to what he was doing so you should give him the chance to change his behaviour.

Seeing as he has not changed his behaviour I would recommend that you start to take more formal steps to sort this situation out.

A Second Meeting With Your Manager

Talk to your manager, in private, at a pre-planned time, and tell him the reason for your second meeting and outline what it is specifically that you find objectionable.

If you feel nervous about doing this take some time out before the meeting and write out exactly what you want to tell him, word for word like a script and indeed read it out in front of him.

That way you will not miss anything out whatsoever.

Tell you manager that if it does not stop, you will take your grievance to your HR department and will put in a formal grievance about your manager.

Hand a list of the behaviours and allegations over to your manager and tell him why it’s not acceptable, what you find offensive and ask them to stop it.

Following Your Company Procedures

You must of course follow out the procedures in your company handbook but it is pretty much standard practise to first confront the bully and make them aware of their actions.

If there are not discernible improvements then move onto stage 2 of the procedure and take out a formal grievance.

Good luck


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